MSI Z77A-GD65 - Overview

Whenever it comes to a motherboard comparison involving ASUS, Gigabyte or ASRock against an MSI board, the MSI board always tends to show a strong result - either in terms of price, performance or features.  Therefore, when it comes to the new batch of motherboards for Ivy Bridge, it is fair to say that I expect a strong showing from MSI.  Today, we have their Z77A-GD65, which will be one behind their future released GD80 that got attention back at CES for being Thunderbolt equipped.

The Z77A-GD65 currently retails at $190, a good amount above the Gigabyte board.  With the MSI, we have an Intel NIC, a full set of audio outputs, but no PCI or mSATA.  The Z77A-GD65 is in general a good board to play with.  It would underpin any Z77 build with ease.  The design is beneficial to multi-GPU setups, offers voltage read points of overclockers, and gives a front facing USB 3.0 port for front panel USB 3.0 cases.  The auto-overclocking OC Genie is relatively simple, but using the BIOS is straightforward (either at boot time or in the OS with Click BIOS software) to get something more befitting an Ivy Bridge processor.

Due to some of the other boards providing an overclock out-of-the-box, performance on the MSI may seem to be a little down on the other boards, but by enabling OC Genie on board, which every processor should be able to do, performance numbers would be comparable to the competition.

Visual Inspection

The Z77A-GD65 is another motherboard in this roundup that comes in a black and blue livery.  This time MSI have more of an excuse than others do as they have been using it for a fair while now.  Using what is essentially a 10 + 2 phase power delivery, MSI are using somewhat beefier heatsinks than their rivals, connecting both via a heatpipe.  The socket area is right up against Intel's minimum requirements from left to right, but there is some room to maneuver big air coolers from top to bottom.  Around the socket there are at least four fan headers to use: one 4-pin CPU header between the top VRM and the memory slots, a 4-pin system fan header just the other side of the memory slots, a 4-pin to the bottom left of the socket area, and another 4-pin beside the 24-pin ATX power connector.   A fifth fan header can be found at the bottom of the board.

Along the right hand side, we have the standard MSI trio of power/reset/OC Genie buttons, followed by a series of voltage checkpoints for overclockers.  Aside from the 24-pin power connector and the system fan header, there is also a USB 3.0 header at right angles to the board, indicating its primary use is to the front of the case.  Underneath this are the eight SATA ports - two SATA 6 Gbps from the PCH, four SATA 6 Gbps also from the PCH, and another two SATA 6 Gbps from an ASMedia controller.

As the power/reset/OC Genie buttons are at the top right, the bottom of the board has more room to fit in all the headers as needed - front panel audio, TPM, front panel headers and USB 2.0 headers.  In terms of PCIe, MSI have done away with the PCIe to PCI bridge and focused purely on PCIe.  We have an x1, x16 (x8 with dual GPU), x1, x1, x8, x1, and a PCIe 2.0 x4.  In this instance, there is plenty of room for a dual GPU setup with PCIe slots to spare for any extras.

Also of note is the chipset cooler, which is very flat and large with minimal fins, perhaps suggesting that MSI is confident about their heatsink design.  Underneath this is a two digit debug display, and a BIOS switch for changing between two BIOSes.

On the rear IO panel, I think MSI have been reasonable with what they have left in and what they have left out.  From left to right, we have a combination PS/2 port, two USB 2.0 ports (black), a clear CMOS button, digital and coaxial SPDIF outputs, two more USB 2.0 ports (black), a HDMI port, gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports (blue), D-Sub, DVI-D, and audio jacks.

Board Features

MSI Z77A-GD65
Price Link
Size ATX
CPU Interface LGA-1155
Chipset Intel Z77
Power Delivery (CPU/iGPU) 8 + 1 + 2 + 1 (VRM/VTT/GPU/SA)
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-2667 MHz
Video Outputs HDMI, DVI-D, D-Sub
Onboard LAN Intel 82579V
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC898
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe x16 Gen3 (x16, x8/8)
1 x PCIe x16 Gen2 (x4)
4 x PCIe x1 Gen2
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
4 x SATA 3 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
2 x SATA 6 Gbps (ASMedia ASM1061)
USB 4 USB 3.0 ports (2 back panel, 2 from headers)
10 USB 2.0 ports (4 back panel, 6 from headers)
Onboard 4 x SATA 6Gbps
4 x SATA 3 Gbps
1 x USB 3.0 Header
3 x USB 2.0 Headers
1 x IEEE1394 Header
1 x TPM Header
1 x Front Panel Audio Header
Power/Reset Buttons
OC Genie
5 x Fan Headers
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
Fan Headers 1 x CPU Fan Header (4-pin)
4 x SYS Fan Headers (two 4-pin, two 3-pin)
IO Panel 1 x Combo PS/2 Port
1 x Clear CMOS Button
1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Port
1 x Optical S/PDIF Port
4 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Jacks
1 x HDMI
1 x DVI-D
1 x D-Sub
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

It is good to see an Intel NIC on this motherboard and plenty of headers to go around.  The only things missing where other motherboards may have better all-round functionality are a PCI slot, mSATA or on-board WiFi.

 

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H - In The Box, Overclocking MSI Z77A-GD65 - BIOS and Software
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  • Jase89 - Sunday, May 19, 2013 - link

    Having RAID Option ROM Supported in UEFI as well (people using RAID) is a very good thing ASRock have done with their Z77 series, wonder when Gigabyte will add this feature, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1TbdVtAE9c Reply
  • gramboh - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Just wanted to add that my new P8Z77-V Pro POSTS significantly faster than what Ian experienced in this review, probably due to my configuration:

    Intel SATA: AHCI
    ASmedia USB3: on
    ASmedia SATA controller: off
    Wifi: off
    Onboard sound: off

    My total time from splash screen to Windows 7 Pro x64 login is 15 seconds on a Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240GB. The post is about 6 seconds (hand timing these). It's unfortunately the other controllers add ~14 seconds of POST time.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Hi Gramboh,

    Disabling ASMedia SATA, Wifi and Sound would obviously decrease POST time by quite a bit! As I doubt the majority of non-enthusiast buyers would go into the BIOS and disable what they don't need, I kept the start up sequence the same as default to reflect this.

    Ian
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    A large number of your readers are enthusiasts. Giving both sets of numbers would be beneficial for us. A per onboard device breakdown of boot time would be nice; but probably too much work to be justified. Reply
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    I've added 'POST Quick' to my internal database of testing, with the aim to turn off all I can to observe POST times. Will be applied from the next review onwards, perhaps retroactively if I get time.

    Ian
    Reply
  • AlexIsAlex - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    Awesome, thank you so much!

    Perhaps the manufacturers will pay attention to this too :-)
    Reply
  • Paapaa125 - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    I think most Anandtech readers DO go to BIOS to set things up. I think it is crucial to know if the differences in performance (boot time, benchmarks, power consumption etc) can be minimized just by changing BIOS settings. That would make it a lot easier to buy a new board.

    I have seen reports that some boards don't follow the Intel specs regarding Turbo Boost settings and utilize higher frequency with all cores utilized. This skews the performance results greatly. Those following the specs get worse results - yet they could be configured for exact same performance.
    Reply
  • dananski - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Makes me really glad to have ordered the ASRock, though I wonder how it would be affected by having RAID enabled? My GA-P35C-DS3R takes about a minute to get through POST and RAID screens.

    I am also confused why even the quick one is taking so long. My laptops take less than 5 secs to POST :/
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    ATX just seems like it's for bragging rights, and not even directly so, simply because you'll be able to say you have so many things connected, maybe you even have tri or quad SLI, all in a huge case. Can we get some coverage of mATX boards?

    On another note, something that drives me nuts is the AHCI driver loading at POST. Last time I checked I couldn't find a straight answer, does this loading stage still happen in ivy bridge? Of course you don't have to use AHCI, but it really should be standard and enabled by default. At least for anyone spending this much on a motherboard.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    "Conclusion – Gigabyte MSI Z77A-GD65"

    One more rant lol. Is having all 4 video outputs really a feature? Is this not targeted at people who will be using their own graphics card? In which case they only serve to use up space that could be used towards USB ports or something else that's almost as useful. Remember before P55, 10 usb ports were starting to be the average on a feature filled board, now we have to settle for 6-8. Unless you want to spend top dollar for more.
    Reply

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